Walking Blues


Back to work today for the first time in half a week, courtesy of something viral that had me feeling extremely light-headed at my desk (and more so when I stood up to let my team manager know how I was).

En route to work, I had to visit the post office to post two outstanding eBay items, long overdue despatch, but there was a lorry blocking the narrow section beside the Redrock development so my bus had to go the long way round and into the Bus Station from the back.

So I walked slowly from my point of disembarkation to the Post Office, and slowly back from there to the Sandwich Pound, and MacColls for my paper and something to drink, and then the Steps out of Mersey Square: 54 of them, my daily grind that, in the five plus years I’ve been working here, I have always done in one, no breaks, no halts, and still do.

And getting to work to discover that one lift is out of commission and the other, whilst supposedly working, is on the ground floor and not responding to any button presses whatsoever. I work on the Fifth Floor. I walked all the way. Five flights. I only needed three stops for breath.

I’m not going into this on the assumption that you’re all inherently fascinated with my every moment and will drink this in like some super-effective energy drink. Events over the weekend had me thinking about screensavers on laptops. I’ve previously used different Rick Geary cartoons as screensavers but on my current, and less than perfect machine, I’ve used a classic photo: Scafell Pike and Ill Crag, rising above Upper Eskdale.

You’ve seen it before: I’ve used it at least twice on this blog. It’s a classic scene, one of my favourites views in the Lakes, something I have seen half a dozen times in the high atmosphere, the long walk in from Eskdale via the Cowcove zigzags.

If you were to transport me this instant to Eskdale, to the mouth of the farm road to Taw House, to the start of that walk in that takes me back to that very spot, with boots on feet and rucksack on back, and to the beginning of the middle morning, 10.00am, a dry, clear, warm day, if you were to give me the freedom to set boot on that route back into the heart of the Scafells, my own heart would swell, with delight, with the air that tastes so very different to anything the streets of Stockport can offer, and I would step out on the way home into the fells.

Or would I?

My exertions this morning, both on the (relatively) flat and on those stairs, suggest an unwelcome conclusion. My short ramble on the lower flanks of Loughrigg Fell, back in 2012 aside, I have not done any fellwalking since the very early days of my marriage. I have been out of the fells for more than a decade, for close on fifteen years. I have known for a very long time that if my fortunes changed, and the chance to return to the Lakes for holidays and weekends was once more available to me, there would need to be a long period of retraining and recovery.

But I was so slow in walking, and even the 54 steps were a trial to ascend. I wanted nothing more than to get to sit down. There is a massive difference between Mersey Square in Stockport and the Cumbrian Fells, and that difference is heartening and warming: I would want to walk in the Lakes and I would want to walk uphill.

Do I have, would I have the energy and the strength to get there? The idea of reaching the Pike itself on a one-off expedition like that is out of the question, but to get far enough to be in sight of the highest fells: am I still physically capable of walking that far?

I’m not feeling at my best today. But I haven’t felt at my best for a very long time. I don’t get enough exercise and I feel weary enough that I don’t do any more exercise. My second Museum trip to London this year is probably the longest sustained walking I’ve done in years, and long before it was over, I was hot and drained, and strolling slowly enough that an arthritic slug could have overtaken me.

Suddenly, I’m starting to wonder whether my exile from the fells is going to be permanent, if I’m going to be fit for nothing more than the Outlying Fells.

One thing’s for certain: my retraining programme is going to have to be at least twice as long as I’d previously thought and it might take me a month to get back above 2,000 feet again. If ever.

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